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Dialogues on the Experience of War

Division of Education Programs

Receipt Deadline November 2, 2016 for Projects Beginning May 2017

Brief Summary

As a part of its current initiative, Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War, the National Endowment for the Humanities offers the Dialogues on the Experience of War program. The program supports the study and discussion of important humanities sources about war, in the belief that these sources can help U.S. military veterans and others to think more deeply about the issues raised by war and military service. The humanities sources can be drawn from history, philosophy, literature, and film—and they may and should be supplemented by testimonials from those who have served. The discussions are intended to promote serious exploration of important questions about the nature of duty, heroism, suffering, loyalty, and patriotism.

The program awards grants of up to $100,000 that will support

  1. the recruitment and training of discussion leaders; and

  2. following the training program, the convening of at least two discussion programs.

The discussion programs can take place on college and university campuses, in veterans’ centers, at public libraries and museums, and at other community venues. Most of the participants in the discussion programs should be military veterans; others, such as men and women in active service, military families, and interested members of the public, may participate as well.

Potential Resources for Dialogues on the Experience of War Projects

War, military service, patriotism, pacifism, and civic duty are themes that have permeated the great works of history, literature, philosophy, and art that will form the basis of Dialogues on the Experience of War discussion programs. From the Standard of Ur to the Book of Deuteronomy, to Herodotus, Thucydides, Sun Tzu, the Mahabharata, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas, the subject of war—its causes and effects, and the experience of soldiers, sailors, civilians, and families—has animated the works of poets, philosophers, historians, artists, and theologians of the ancient and medieval world.

The same is no less true in the modern world, in which great questions about war and military service have commanded sustained attention in literary, historical, artistic, and philosophical sources. Powerful works emerged from the wars of the last three centuries. Consider, for example, the writings of Carl von Clausewitz and Henry David Thoreau; poetry by Rudyard Kipling, Wilfred Owen, Anthony Hecht, and Brian Turner; histories by Russell Weigley, Drew Gilpin Faust, John Keegan, and Laura Hillenbrand; plays by Alice Dunbar-Nelson and David Rabe, artworks by Käthe Kollwitz, Pablo Picasso, and Stanley Spencer; Civil War ballads and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony (dedicated to the city of Leningrad in 1941).

To this list may be added many powerful cinematic treatments, including La Grande Illusion (France, 1937), The Best Years of Our Lives (United States, 1946), Night and Fog (France, 1955), The Cranes Are Flying (USSR, 1957), Hell in the Pacific (United States, 1968), Das Boot (Germany, 1981), The Pianist (Poland, 2002), Turtles Can Fly (Iraq/France/Iran, 2005), and The Messenger (United States, 2009).

The works listed here are offered only as examples. None of them needs to be included on proposed syllabi.

Program Statistics

In its initial competition the Dialogues on the Experience of War program received one hundred applications and made seventeen awards, for a funding ratio of 17 percent.


Contact the staff of NEH's Division of Education Programs at and 202-606-8471.